July 2011

Research and development: a powerful tie bridging many nations

Report looks at steps countries are taking to boost their capacities in science, technology and innovation. 


In the aftermath of recent economic hardships and natural disasters, the world appears to many to be a rather dismal place. Yet at least from the perspective of a research scientist, that may not necessarily be the case. It is true that recent economic instability has brought a sense of unease to the research and development arena. But as described by a recent report from the secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, even against such a bleak financial backdrop, advances in the globalization of scientific efforts hint that a better future is ahead.

Investing in R&D 

Realizing the potential that advances in R&D could have in jump-starting their economies, many countries have made a sustained commitment to invest in R&D. Interestingly, as described in the “OECD Science, Technology, and Industry Outlook 2010,” this parameter is multifaceted.

From a financial standpoint, government agencies long have been supporters of R&D, providing both competitively and noncompetitively awarded funding to support long-term endeavors. Intriguingly, many of the countries investigated in the report, including Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic, have shifted focus in recent years toward supporting infrastructure and encouraging merit-based (competitive) awards.

The financial contribution of the business sector to R&D is becoming more important globally. Among all countries analyzed, Israel stood out as having the highest increase in financial contributions to R&D by its business sector between 1998 and 2008, with Japan, Sweden, Greece, Portugal and Spain following close behind.

Finally, and perhaps less obviously, tax relief in many countries is becoming an important factor in R&D growth. This relief comes in several forms, including additional deductions from taxable income as well as deductions in payable taxes. True to the spirit of incentivizing scientific research, most countries offering tax breaks for R&D promotion increasingly have become more generous in this respect over the years.

Together, the financial contributions outlined above have allowed for broad expansion of research opportunities within the countries analyzed. For example, Slovenia established eight new centers for the advancement of nanotechnologies and health sciences, and Israel developed its own centers for advancement of R&D and innovation (ICORE).

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